An Adoption Manifesto

What if it all came together in one place? What if all the adoption arkansas information you could ever need was manifested on one page of the internet?

Well, I can’t give you all the info, that’s crazy. What I can give you is a summer’s worth of it.

I met Justin Heimer, the owner and practitioner of Adoption Arkansas, at a child development conference back in May. He mentioned that he ran an adoption law firm on the square in Fayetteville. I remember thinking wouldn’t that be a great place to work? The next day, I saw a posting on my University’s career site from Justin seeking a marketing intern.

Guess what my major is.

A few days later I arrived at his office dressed to the nines: suit, tie, shiny shoes- even a fancy black business binder in hand. After about 40 minutes, Justin asked if I wanted the job.

“Uh… Well, yes,” I said.

“Great,” he replied before he raised an eyebrow and asked what I was doing in a suit.

My role as a digital marketing intern quickly evolved into content creation: website copy, blog material, and brochure type stuff. I like to think of myself as the unofficial Supreme Content King Aficionado, but most people would probably still just call me that intern. My involvement with content meant I would be involved in learning the ins and outs of the business, and in this case, the ins and outs of the law.

The summer has ended and with it, my unofficial position as king/aficionado. So, as my last hoorah, I thought I would leave the blogosphere with everything I know. Everything. I thought I’d leave you with an Adoption Manifesto.

What you will find as you scroll down is a four-part document packed with sub-headings and bullet points that would make a seasoned paper pusher blush. Here’s how it can help you: if you are interested in adoption of any kind, skip around and find a bolded heading on the kind of adoption you’re interested in. If you’re thinking about adoption but are not sure what kind you want to pursue, compare parts I, II, and III. Finally, if you want some info on stepparent adoption, adopting your own child, or relative adoption, skip down to part IV.

Real quick, before you start your journey into the depths of adoption know-how, let’s note just a few things.

You can categorize adoption a thousand different ways. To me, the simplest is to say that there are 3 main types of adoption.

  1. Domestic adoption of an infant
  1. Adoption through the foster care system or foster-to-adopt
  1. International adoption

Our services at Adoption Arkansas are catered mainly to the first of these three. But adoption was, from day one, more than a means to a profitable end. It was always more about what adoption does for kids, for families, in the fight for life, and for expectant mothers than it was about earning a dollar.

So, foster care was at the forefront of what I was asked to promote regardless of the fact that our services aren’t needed in typical foster care adoptions. International adoption research was part of my job even though we don’t service international adoptions.

I got a taste of it all. And now it’s all yours.

Let’s manifest, shall we?

The Manifesto

Part I

Domestic Adoption of Infants

This is the most common type of adoption. Domestic adoption can either be done privately- through an attorney, or publically- through a public adoption agency. There are advantages to both.

Public adoptions are more common. Agencies offer the advantage of simply being the standard place an expectant mother would turn to for adoption. Agencies also offer pre-adoption counseling and they will recommend an attorney. Private adoptions allow you to skip out on some of the costs of public adoptions, so they may be a better option if you know of an expectant mother or if you are willing to contribute to the search for her.

Domestic adoption starts with the future parents who say “hey, we want to adopt a kid”. In order for them to say this to the state, they sign a petition for adoption. This kicks off the process. It will end with their signature on a decree of adoption. Before this happens, the parents have a long voyage to navigate. On their journey, the prospective parents will:

  • Fill out piles of paperwork
  • Pass a home-study
  • Be selected by an expectant birth mother
  • Wait for the child to be born
  • Endure the 5-day waiting period

Then finally, they will go to the adoption hearing where they sign the decree and celebrate after the swing of a gavel.

Open or Closed Adoptions

Closed adoptions are easily understood. They simply do not allow for a continued relationship between a birth mother and the adopting family. Open adoptions do allow for that relationship. The extent of the relationship will need to be decided upon by both. It could be as little as an annual letter to as much as a real and open face to face friendship.

The Finances

A domestic adoption will usually cost between $20,000 and $40,000. But don’t run away! There are avenues to considerably soften the blow.

Avenue 1: The Adoption Tax Credit

  • Available to families that make less than $200,000 annually.
  • It can credit a family with up to $13,400.
  • A family can only be credited as much as they owe in income tax.

Avenue 2: Fund-searching

There are people and organizations out there that want to see you adopt. Some of them offer grants to select adopting families. So, if you’ve begun the adoption process, get your googling shoes on and start applying. A good place to start is at http://showhope.org/.

Another place you can find funds is your place of work. Many organizations offer adoption benefits. So, dig around or just ask someone, you may strike gold.

Avenue 3: Fundraising

The adoption of a child into a loving home benefits those involved and society as a whole. Your community would likely love to be a part of it. So, fundraising is a great way to let them in. You can make it even more worth their while by running a fun event or cooking some awesome BBQ.

The Paperwork

I’m not here to hold any punches. There will be considerable paperwork to go through. Your best bet is to get it done early so that it doesn’t hinder you from moving forward with the process because sometimes a kid comes early.

The Home-study

The home-study process is just a measure taken by the state to protect children. It’s not something to stress about.

A social worker meets with your family a few times. They interview you and ask about things like your:

  • Background
  • Education
  • Work
  • Experience with children

Some of the information is personal, but it is protected.

The social worker will meet with you at your house at least once to look around. So, be sure to make your place kid-friendly beforehand.

The home-study itself is a document that the social worker prepares which informs the state on your preparedness to raise a child. Remember that the social worker is on your side. The state wants you to adopt and does not look for perfect families, they simply want safe families in safe and stable situations.

The Adoption Profile

If you go the domestic route, you will prepare a profile that will be shown to expectant mothers. The profile will typically include some info like your work, values, hobbies, etc. This is extremely important as the adoption process doesn’t move forward until you are chosen by a mother.

Birth Mother Rights

Until the gavel comes down and the adoption is finalized, the state will allow a mother to change her mind. In Arkansas, an adoption cannot be finalized until the 6th day after the birth of the child. So, the 5 day waiting period is an important and often anxious time for adopting families.

An adoption disruption refers to a situation in which the adoption falls through after a child has been placed in a home but before finalization. Multiple studies suggest that disruption rates are between 10% and 25%. So, this terrible circumstance does happen, but it is not the norm.

Birth Father Rights

If a father shows any interest in fathering his child, he must give consent to an adoption. If, however, he fails to show interest in the child, he does not need to be contacted. You may discuss with your lawyer this situation as it may be wise to contact the father and seek his consent either way, in order to cover all your bases.

Marriage changes the game a bit. If the mother is married, her husband must give consent to an adoption. This is the case regardless of who the real father may be, or if the husband has shown interest in the child.

Part II

Adoption through Foster Care

There is great need throughout the U.S and right here in the Natural State for families to commit to foster care and even greater need for families to adopt through the state. In fact, Governor Asa Hutchinson recently stated that there is a “crisis in the state” referring to the lack of approved beds for children in foster care in Arkansas as there are 4,400 kids and only 2,500 beds.

Here is what adopting through the state looks like:

  1. You must first go through background checks, the CPR certification process, and 30 hours of training. You can be trained by the state or through a state-approved organization such as The Call.
  1. You will then need to be approved through a home study. For more on the home study process, scroll up to part I.
  1. After you are all trained up and approved, children will be placed in your home.
  1. When a certain child placed with you is able to be adopted, you will be able to pursue it at your will. Note that before any adoption, the rights of the birth parents must first be terminated, so you may be in for a bit of a wait and sometimes even a legal battle.

The Finances

Foster care adoptions are free.

You may incur a minor expense or two like the cost of a background check (around $40) but there are no placement charges, legal charges, or charges associated with the birth mother. Further, foster families are eligible to receive board payments to help offset some of the costs of raising a child.

The Age of the Child

There are children waiting to be matched with their forever family at virtually every age in Arkansas.

Some Foster Care Facts

  • 238 children aged out of foster care in Arkansas in 2012
  • 1,023 children remained waiting to be adopted in Arkansas in 2012
  • There is currently a shortage of 1,900 approved beds for Arkansas foster kids

Part III 

International Adoption

The international adoption process will look different for everyone but here is a general picture:

  1. You contact an agency that services international adoptions
  1. You go through and pass a home-study (see home-study in part I)
  1. You complete a considerable amount of paperwork
  1. You get connected with a child and he or she is placed with you
  1. You bring the child home

The Financials

The price range for International adoptions is quite similar to that of domestic adoptions, with a slightly higher ceiling. A fair, estimated range would be between $20,000 and $45,000. Just like domestic adoptions, there are avenues to considerably soften the blow including the tax credit, fund-searching, and fundraising (see the financials of domestic adoption above).

Some of the costs of a domestic adoption are substituted for various other costs in an international adoption. In an international adoption, you will have to cover visa costs and often the costs of traveling to and from a foreign country as opposed to some of the costs of domestic adoptions such as the costs associated with the health of the expectant birth mother.

Re-adoption

After an international adoption, the child’s birth certificate will still be from their home country. This may pose some problems in the future especially if the certificate is written in another language. To avoid confusion and headaches down the road, some families elect to “re-adopt” their child. Re-adopting will cause the state to create a birth certificate for the child from right here in the U.S.A.

Part IV 

Everything In-between

Adoption comes in many shapes and sizes beyond the 3 types discussed above.

Stepparent Adoption

This is one of the most common types of adoption. Here are a few things to know:

  1. In order for a stepparent to adopt, the parental rights of the non-involved parent must first be terminated.
  1. Stepchildren are not naturally considered next of kin, so they do not have a direct claim to inheritance unless legal steps are taken.
  1. Stepparents might not be awarded custody of stepchildren in the event of the death of the spouse unless legal steps are taken beforehand.

The costs vary but are considerably less than other forms of adoption.

Relative Adoption

Blood relations are highly valued by the courts when a child needs a home. As a result, often blood relatives are granted custody and they often seek to adopt. The costs of this form of adoption also vary but are much less than other forms.

Adopting Your Own Child

This is pretty bizarre, but it actually happens quite a bit.

This would be helpful if you were to recognize that the other parent of your child acts or lives in a way that is detrimental to the growth of your kid. There are avenues to terminating parental rights but the process is difficult and it often ends up unsuccessful. That is unless you adopt your own child. The state is much more likely to terminate parental rights if it means an adoption can happen, so, often a parent that wants to protect her child will adopt him or her in order to terminate the parental rights of the other parent.

The End

I’d like to leave you on a personal note. I came to Adoption Arkansas with a zeal for adoption. The concept seemed so wonderful to me. What a thing it is for a mother, unable to raise her child, to set her pride to the side and to selflessly give her child a better life. What a thing it is for an adopting parent to say to a child “here is your home. Here is your family. I’m going to take care of you”. We have a word for that way of treating a person.

Love.

I survived an adoption-filled summer and with me my passion for adoption. In fact, this passion has never been stronger. I am convinced that there is no better way to love someone, short of literally giving your life for them, than to give of your time, of your resources, and of yourself through adoption.

I wish you all the very best and I hope you experience this kind of love in some way, some day.

-Keith Laster